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Automotive industry jobs continue to change as carmarkers focus on technology

The traditional carmaker as a manufacturing giant may soon be a thing of the past. With the advancement of automotive technology, car companies are starting to look a lot more like tech startups.

That’s the impression given by a list of the auto industry jobs of the future released by General Motors GM -1.15% this month, a roster stacked with roles that may seem more likely to be found at a search engine or app designer than a Big Three automaker.

According to Ken Kelzer, GM’s Global VP of Vehicle Components and Subsystems, many of the auto industry jobs for which demand will increase over the next several years will be focused on integrating consumer electronics–tablets, touchscreens, mobile technology–into vehicles.

“What we have to do is go from consumer electrics into vehicle electronics,” said Kelzer. “If you think about a TV or a radio at home, it sits on a countertop. You put that into a vehicle, you have to transform it into a vehicle environment. Many times that means it’s got to hang out at minus-30 on our dash in the hills of Arizona, or out in the parking lot at minus-20. You have to transform the electronics into what a vehicle can handle.”

As a result, hiring is beginning to favor the professionals with skills in electrical, versus mechanical, engineering.

“If you look at our hiring statistics,” said Kelzer, “15 years ago it was by far mostly mechanical engineers, now you’re seeing that change significantly to the electrical side.”

It’s no surprise that it remains a great employment climate in which to be an engineer.

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Performance vehicle sales up 70% in the United States since 2009

Despite tightening emissions laws and fuel economy requirements, sales of performance cars and truck in the U.S are on the rise.

Sales of high-performance models in the U.S. have outpaced global growth since the teeth of the recession in 2009, according to Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance.

“Performance vehicle sales around the world continue to grow — with sales up 70 percent in the United States and 14 percent in Europe since 2009,” Pericak said.

Demand for some vehicles is so white hot that automakers can’t keep up: Dodge recently announced it was suspending new orders for its 707-hp Challenger and Charger Hellcat models until it could validate orders and fulfill its backlog. And at the New York auto show, traditionally a bastion of luxury car reveals, automakers touted performance models in virtually every segment, from the affordable Ford Focus RS to the new McLaren 570S supercar.

It’s not just a desire for magazine covers and 0-to-60 bragging rights driving this trend; automakers and analysts say performance cars are good business. They offer fat profit margins and draw different, younger buyers who can spend more, and they cast a high-performance halo on an automaker’s more prosaic offerings.

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Vehicles that last the longest

Americans spend a lot of time driving. In fact, data from the Department of Transportation confirms that Americans spend an average of 13,476 miles on their cars annually. So next time you’re in the market for a new vehicle, you should consider how many miles it will get you without major problems., a website that aggregates 30 million used car listings from all around the country, recently looked for all of the vehicles housed on its website from 1981-2010 that have more than 200,000 miles on the odometer in order to see which models are really going the distance for their owners. The findings, which list the 12 models with the highest percentage of 200,000-mile travelers, are quite interesting. Only one car made the list, the Honda Accord. All the rest are either trucks or SUVs.

Here are three that make the list:

  • Honda Accord
  • GMC Yukon
  • GMC Sierra

Read more for the full list.

Takata still trying to solve defective air bag mystery

The mystery of what caused some Takata air bags to spray metal shrapnel after being triggered, killing drivers, remains unsolved after months of testing with an independent panel of engineers.

“This may not be something as simple as just one root cause,” said former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Kelly, who has been hired by the industry to investigate the problem.

It’s a painful, open question for families of victims and a big concern for anyone driving a car or shopping for a new or used vehicle.

Ten automakers, including the Detroit Three, are involved in a massive recall of 17 million vehicles with Takata air bags. Six deaths and more than 100 injuries have been tied to the specific air bag defect.

It’s also unclear whether the replacement air bag systems are safer. That’s because they use the same volatile chemical to inflate the bags, ammonium nitrate, that some suspect is at the heart of the problem. Other air bag manufacturers use less-volatile chemicals, but they cost more.

Chemicals are key to how an air bag operates. When the car’s sensors detect an imminent crash, the inflator — like a rocket booster — sets off a chemical charge to produce nitrogen gas that fills the air bag like a pillow. After the crash, vents in the pillow allow for a slow deflation.

Read the full story here.

Slowest states for car repairs

New car rental data from Enterprise shows which states are the slowest for car repairs following an accident.

The data comes from the Automated Rental Management System. That’s a software solution designed by Enterprise to facilitate communication between garages, customers, insurance companies, and Enterprise, “[e]nabling shops to send electronic rental reservations, vehicle status updates and automated text or email customer notifications”.

As such, ARMS is able to weed out data from folks who’ve just rented car for business trips or weekend getaways, focusing solely on those who’ve borrowed a car while theirs is in the shop. ARMS’ stats show that, on average, drivers in the Midwest receive much faster repair service than their friends in other parts of the country.

Coming in dead last is Rhode Island, a tiny state with a huge wait time for car-owners: 14.1 days. The five lowest rungs on the repair ladder include:

Texas (11.9 days)
Alaska (12.3 days)
Louisiana (12.4 days)
Massachusetts (13.5 days)
Rhode Island (14.1 days)

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Want better fuel-efficiency? Trade your wheels for wings

We all want the best fuel economy. Turns out, driving isn’t the way to get it.

Although traveling by plane can be pretty daunting these days thanks to long lines at the airport and cramped quarters in the cabin, a recent study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute finds that taking flight is far more efficient than driving.

Researcher Michael Sivak bases his investigation on a measure called energy intensity, which is the amount needed to transport a single person over a distance. While cars were found to be less intense than planes in the ’70s, those numbers have completely changed, and driving had an energy intensity 2.07 times greater than domestic passenger flights in the US, according to 2012 figures.

We were still far away from making auto travel as efficient as flying was in 2012, as well. According to Sivak, the average fuel economy of the entire US light-duty fleet was 21.6 miles per gallon that year. To be in line with the energy intensity of flying, the number for cars would need to be 44.7 mpg, he calculated. We probably aren’t going to be close anytime soon, either. The UMTRI finds average new vehicle fuel economy of 25.4 mpg through March 2015 and 25.3 mpg for all of 2014.

You can keep in mind next time you’re crowded into a plane’s tiny seat that at least it’s a more energy efficient option than driving.

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Get the best deal on your next car: here’s how

In some ways the Internet has made the task of buying a new car or truck easier, however car shoppers can still get tripped up.

It’s important to follow certain steps to make sure you get the absolute best deal on your next car and avoid falling prey to unnecessary charges and high-profit add-ons that can sour even the sweetest deal.

1. Assess Your Needs And Budget.

2. Consider Your Long-Term Costs.

3. Establish A “Target” Price.

4. Take An Interest In Financing.

5. Determine Your Car’s Trade-In Value.

6. Investigate Incentives. 

7. Get Behind The Wheel.

8. Start A Bidding War. 

9. Negotiating The Best Possible Deal. 

10. Watch Your “Back End.”

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The Best Time to Buy a Car

If you’re thinking about buying a car sometime in the near future, you might want to consider expediting your purchase. The best time to buy a car is now.

It’s a good time to be in the market for a new car – especially if you plan to finance the purchase, as nine out of 10 Americans do. Buyers with good credit can take advantage of some very low interest rates.

Rates for new and used car loans are at “their lowest point in the past few years,” according to a new survey of 157 lenders by the website WalletHub. The average interest rate for new-car loans is currently 4.29 percent and 4.96 percent for used cars.

Their 2015 Auto Financing Report also found that interest rates vary greatly from lender to lender – so it really pays to shop for that money.

“People in the market for a new car should start their search for financing with the manufacturer,” said WalletHub’s Jill Gonzalez. “Car manufacturers are pumping out vehicles in record numbers and they’re really pushing lower interest rates to stimulate sales.”

WalletHub found that the average loan from the manufacturer is currently about 35 percent below the national average. Car loans at credit unions are 25 percent below average, national banks are roughly average and regional banks are 40 percent above average.

The manufacturers currently offering the lowest financing rates, based on this survey are: Nissan, Toyota and Chrysler.

Jack Gillis, author of The Car Book 2015, cautions buyers that the financing arranged through a dealer may be higher than what’s offered from the manufacturer.

“Often the low interest rates advertised by dealers require extraordinarily high credit ratings and sometimes are accompanied by extra fees,” Gillis told NBC News. “Before you talk financing with the dealer, check with your credit union and banks to see what they offer. It’s the only way to know if the dealers’ financing is a good deal.”

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How To Make Traffic More Tolerable

Let’s face it, traffic sucks. Especially if it’s something you battle every single day. The good news is, it doesn’t have to suck quite so bad if you’re in the right kind of vehicle.

Automakers love to show us commercials with these evocative scenes of fantastic roads surrounded by dramatic scenery, with nary another car as far as the eye can see. It’s just man and machine, and an exhilarating jaunt on that alpine road, or in the open desert, or maybe it’s that coastal highway. The reality of course, is most people have to deal with the daily crunch, the crushing sea of cars on roads and freeways, more taillight than tailspin. But the daily obstacle that makes getting to the office or dropping kids off at school a mind-numbing chore, it doesn’t have to be all that horrible

Here are a few vehicles that just might make your weekly commute a little more pleasant:

  • Lexus RX350
  • Dodge Charger
  • Mercedes S550 Sedan
  • Honda Odyssey

Click here for more.

Why The Electric Car Struggles

The electric car is something many consumers want.  One of the biggest challenges with electrical vehicles is the ever-present range anxiety–the fear that you’ll run out of juice before you reach the next charging station. Elon Musk promised to solve this for Tesla drivers with the Supercharger network. Now the American divisions of BMW and Volkswagen are teaming up to build 100 direct current (DC) fast charging ports across the US to improve long-distance travel.

The two car makers are also partnering with ChargePoint, a startup that provides the network for getting access to charging stations. The 100 additional charging stations will be tied in with Charge Pt’s current 20,000 stations in North America.

“Many of our customers voiced the concern about availability of public chargers,” said Robert Healey, BMW’s head of EV infrastructure, in a phone call. “We listened to them and we have committed to building out the infrastructure. To do that efficiently, we need partnerships betweens OEMs.”

BMW and Volkswagen will be providing the majority of the cash for all 100 stations with some money coming from ChargePoint. The group has already begun construction of the ports in San Diego and plan to get all 100 up by sometime this year. “The build out schedule is literally as fast as humanly possible,” said Healey. “We’re fully funded and fully staffed. The only limiting factor is normal construction time.”

The stations will be placed along high-traffic areas of Interstate 95 on the east coast that runs from Boston to Washington, D.C. On the west coast, the new charging stations will connect cities running as far north as Portland and as far down as San Diego. The charging stations will be placed no further than 50 miles apart.

The fast charging ports will include either two 50 kW DC Fast chargers or 24 kW DC Combo Fast chargers. A 24kW port will charge BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf up to 80 percent in 30 minutes, and in 20 minutes at a 50 kW station. The 100 locations will also include Level 2 chargers, which are slower chargers but are compatible with all electric vehicles.

The charging stations will of course support the two companies own electric cars–the i3 and e-Golf–but will also support any vehicles with DC fast charging capabilities and vehicles that use the SAE Combo connector, which is the standard favored among American and European car makers. “From BMW’s perspective, we’re committed to support electric car mobility, not only for BMW but for others,” said Healey.

Tesla has also started the process of building out a vast network of “Supercharger” stations that can power up a Tesla vehicles in 30 minutes. Currently, the Supercharger network numbers around 150 stations in North America. The only problem is, these charging stations only work with Tesla cars.

As opposed to Tesla’s propriety Supercharger stations, the charging stations BMW and Volkswagen are building use the popular SAE standard.

Last year, Tesla opened up its patents to the Supercharger system that would, in theory, allow for other electric cars makers to adopt the technology and use Tesla’s infrastructure. But we’ve yet to see any results of this. Although the Financial Times reported that Nissan and BMW may be interested in working with Tesla on the charging technology, Healey from BMW would only say: “we have committed to the SAE standard.”  How will this change the electric cars fate?

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